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Met Ions Life Sci. 2011;8:27-60.

Human risk assessment of heavy metals: principles and applications.

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European Food Safety Authority, Largo N. Palli 5, I-43100 Parma, Italy.


Humans are exposed to a number of "heavy metals" such as cadmium, mercury and its organic form methylmercury, uranium, lead, and other metals as wel as metalloids, such as arsenic, in the environment, workplace, food, and water supply. Exposure to these metals may result in adverse health effects, and national and international health agencies have methodologies to set health-based guidance values with the aim to protect the human population. This chapter introduces the general principles of chemical risk assessment, the common four steps of chemical risk assessment: hazard identification, hazard characterization, exposure assessment, risk characterization, and toxicokinetic and toxicity aspects. Finally, the risk assessments performed by international health agencies such as the World Health Organisation, the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States, and the European Food Safety Authority are reviewed for cadmium, lead, mercury, uranium, and arsenic.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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